Maine’s Department of Conservation reported a near-record timber harvest on public reserved lands of 70,600 cords the past winter season.

The harvest, above that of recent years, is valued at approximately $2.23 million.

These funds support maintenance, operations and public access on the state lands, said Tom Morrison of the Maine Department of Conservation in a press release.

The harvest, said Morrison, included hiring local logging contractors in 29 locations, harvesting timber across the state, and supporting more than 200 private-sector jobs. Logs were reportedly delivered to more than 40 Maine mills for value-added processing.

“Timber harvests on state lands are carried out by private contractors who sell to private mills,” said Gov. Paul LePage in the release. “Our revenue goes toward managing our forests. This is about private jobs and public access to the woods for Maine people.”

Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley said, “We manage public lands for a combination of public access for Maine citizens, preservation of sites of intrinsic conservation values and for timber production based on a multiple-use, long-rotation and sustainable basis. Our timber revenues bode well for future state revenues and private sector jobs.”

Bureau of Parks and Lands Director Will Harris said state foresters oversaw a great winter harvest season. “We have helped the economy and held to our forest sustainability standards,” he said.

“We will use the revenue we get from our timber management to maintain and increase public access to our public lands. I hope the people of Maine are pleased with our management of their forest lands.”

Maine reportedly has close to 600,000 acres of public reserved lands under the management of the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Public reserved lands differ from other state-owned lands, such as state parks and historic sites, in that they are managed for multiple uses, including special protection for unique natural and historic areas, recreation, wildlife habitat and timber harvesting.

According to the release, there are 30 units of public reserved lands around the state, ranging in size from 500 to more than 43,000 acres and other smaller scattered lots.

In general, the public is not charged fees for recreational use. According to the release, funds from timber harvests support land management and harvest operations in softwood stands are designed to increase white-tailed deer and snowshoe hare habitat, to benefit populations.

According to state figures, Maine’s forest-products industry has a $10 billion annual impact on the state’s economy and creates 20,000 jobs.

“This year, we had a very successful harvest season,” said Morrison, a licensed professional forester in addition to being director of operations for BPL. “We had no particularly difficult weather to deal with; the mills were taking wood, and the prices were stable this year.”

Morrison said the winter harvest lasted from late November 2010 until March 2011 and produced approximately 11,000 cords more than last year’s harvest.

“The timber was cut for a variety of production uses, ranging from biomass, pulp, saw and veneer logs,” said Morrison, adding 51 percent was used for pulp wood, 37 percent for saw logs, and 12 percent for biomass.

The 29 harvesting contracts were based on the sale of stumpage, Morrison said, and various operations covered 500- to 2,000-acre harvest areas. Some of the larger-scale harvests reportedly took place at Osborn, Eagle Lake, Andover West Surplus Township, and at Indian Pond near Chamberlain Lake.

The BPL is required by statute to manage public reserved lands, in terms of timber harvesting, to produce a sustainable yield, Morrison said. An annual allowable cut has been established at 115,000 cords for the 400,000 acres of operable timberland on these lands.

Because BPL manages the public reserved lands for multiple uses, Morrison said the bureau’s foresters develop prescriptions for what can be cut.

The majority of harvesting takes place during the winter months, Morrison said, because the ground is suitable for the work and there is no significant conflict with other public reserved land activities, such as recreation. Where possible, he said harvests are extended to nonwinter months which spread out the work during the year for the contractors and their employees.

All the public reserved land timber harvest operations are dual certified for sustainable management practices by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forest Initiative, two international certifying organizations.

Dual certification allows contractors to sell the timber harvested as “green certified” to purchasing mills. They, in turn, can guarantee certification to their customers, such as major paper-makers and material building supply chains.

According to the release, the money from the public reserved lands harvest is dedicated to management expenses and is being used to pay for forest management operations and recreational facilities development.

The bureau is responsible for 326 campsites, 150 miles of hiking trails; 35 boat launch areas; and 131 miles of public access road on these lands. The harvest funds support: grading, culvert installation and signage on roads; mapping and brochure publication; seeding and soil conservation activities; invasive species control; wildlife inventory and survey work; wildlife habitat and deeryard management.

Morrison said some timber was retained this year to supply Camden Hills State Park as stock for picnic tables, outhouses and sign boards.

He said the state harvest would continue in coming months up to the 115,000-cord AAC. The harvest may exceed that amount, he said, because more tree tops and limbs – not material counted in the ACC – is being harvested for biomass purposes.

Good for Maine businesses

Dean Young, of Dean Young Forestry in Franklin, had a crew of eight handle what he called a sizable job in Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land Unit under a contract held by Sappi Fine Paper.

Young, whose company works primarily with private landowners, said job security was the biggest advantage to working the BPL harvest.

“We love to have the work, and we like to employ people and keep them working and work with the local economy,” said Young. “There’s lots of positive with it.”

Young said he would like to see more timber harvesting take place on state lands. He said the timber certification was a benefit, helping the reputation of both the state as a wood supplier and of paper producers.

On the other side of the state, Nicols Brothers Logging Inc. of Rumford completed the third winter of a multi-winter job on a 3,500-acre public reserved land site in Andover West Surplus Township.

Owner Jim Nicols has been in business for 31 years, doing mostly industrial work. His logging business also has Master Logger Certification.

Nicols, who employed a crew of 12 to 15, said he expected to complete the timber harvest next winter, calling the BPL contract win-win for his business. The logging company bid directly for the state contract, he said.

“For us, in getting a contract like this, it allowed us to expand and grow our company,” said Nicols. “We had a specific volume of wood we could count on. It allowed us to know it is there.”

Nicols said the timber being dual certified was a benefit and allowed his company to negotiate contracts with buyers.

For more information about public reserved lands, go to maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/prl.html

For the 2010 Annual Report for Public Reserved, Non-Reserved and Submerged Lands, go to maine.gov/doc/parks/pdf/2010landsannualreport.pdf